MOOCs: Free Online Learning Courses

Posted September 12, 2013 by
College students using laptop computers in class

College students using laptop computers in class. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

You may have never heard about MOOCs before. If you are a college student or will be attending college in the near future, you might wonder what a MOOC has to offer you. Here is some pertinent information about MOOCs that you should know in order to discern if they are right for you . . .

What is a MOOC?

A MOOC is a massive open online course that is accessible via the Net and generally uses interactive forums and traditional lectures for college learning. Because their delivery system is the Internet, thousands of students or elearners may be enrolled at one time—even internationally. However, most MOOCs are not yet available for college credit, although this could be changing. In the future, you may be able to pay to take a proctored exam after finishing a MOOC. Upon passing the exam, you would receive college credit. For now, certificates of completion are typically awarded after finishing MOOCs.

How much do MOOCs cost?

MOOCs are free.

Where can I find a MOOC if I want to see which courses are offered?

Several providers offer MOOCs such as Udacity, Coursera, MITx, Udemy, Yale, Duke, Harvard, UCLA, and Stanford Engineering Everywhere (SEE). The number of colleges and universities that offer MOOCs seem to be growing—not dwindling.

What types of classes are offered?

MOOCs may be offered in subjects like business, engineering, math, computer science, medicine, the humanities, fine arts, science, or the social sciences.

If I sign up for a MOOC, what can I expect in terms of class structure?

Your class will be online and you could experience lectures in video formats, have reading assignments, participate in peer reviews, and even take quizzes or exams to make sure you understand the course materials.

Could enrolling in a MOOC be a good idea for a nontraditional college student such as an adult who wants to learn more about a particular subject?

MOOCs are not just for young people. Many adults and professionals find that MOOCs offer flexibility while delving deeper into certain topics. Because of the ability to create study and class schedules around busy lives, MOOCs may be a great way for nontraditional students to learn.

What types of students should enroll in MOOCs?

Learners who tend to be self-motivated and disciplined should be successful in completing MOOCs. If you are a habitual procrastinator, you may want to consider if you will be able to organize your time well in order to study and learn. MOOCs seem to work best for students who are self-directed learners.

MOOCs should continue to be available as more schools and organizations offer them. They are able to reach such global audiences because anyone with a computer and an Internet connection is able to try a free MOOC in a subject area that interests him or her. If you are thinking about participating in this type of learning, peruse the classes that are offered and find out whether you need to enroll by a certain date. Depending on the MOOC, you may have periods of open enrollment and deadlines to register for classes.

Pamela Rossow is a freelance writer who works with higher education clients such as eLearners. She is a native South Floridian who enjoys photography, literature, and hockey. You can follow her on Google+.

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